Having to stay at home or “shelter in place” is the new reality for many people across the world. Time at home presents new opportunities and new challenges. For followers of Christ, an unhealthy scenario includes things like wasting time on boring activities, getting into conflict with your spouse and/or children, or falling into discouragement or depression.
On the other hand, this can be a time of restoration and renewal, and an opportunity– to spend time with family, connect to loved ones through social media, and catch up on neglected projects at home.
This is also a crucial time to be encouraged and strengthened in God’s Word, prayer, and worship.This is indeed a remarkable opportunity for prayer and intercession, but how will we use it? God’s people are called to prayer during this crisis! The power of prayer is real, and changes lives. With so many people facing crisis, sickness, death, or the loss of loved ones, how could we not pray?
Below are some areas to consider for prayer. A daily, structured time for prayer and reading can keep you from neglecting these opportunities and can keep you from falling into a couch potato format. Areas for prayer:
1. Protection and supplies for health care workers on the front lines; protection for police, EMT’s, and other first responders. Protection for workers and leaders in crucial supply chains during the crisis. These and other prayers can be for our own nation, as well as specific nations around the world.
2. For coronavirus threats to be overcome; for people to follow instructions to stay at home; for guidance and wisdom for those fighting the virus.
3. Unity – unity in families, unity the body of Christ, national unity, and a drawing together of people of all backgrounds who will work together towards the end of the crisis. Pray for cooperation and good will across all levels: local, state, national, and international.
4. Guidance and unity for federal, state, county, and city officials. We are instructed to pray for all those in authority. In the following passage on prayer, we note that kings were usually the highest authority in biblical times, while today there are prime ministers, presidents, governors, and so on:
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy. 2.1-4)
A suggested prayer at this time:
"Restore order in this world, O God, that we may live peaceable lives in all godliness and holiness, and focus on you and your loving kingdom. Help us to care for others, and to show your compassion in this world."
5. It is obvious that there is an intense battle going on between good and evil, in our world. We must remember that evil is overcome through prayer, and by doing what is loving and good. As the Word of God says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). Identify the areas of evil, and pray that they be rendered powerless. Pray that good would prevail on each and every battlefront. Do what is good, to help others. Pray that love would prevail, and truth would prevail. Pray for people, and that many would come to Christ during this time.
There are many additional prayers that can be prayed for the sick, health care professionals, first responders, federal, state, and local leaders, people in crucial job positions, and others during this crisis. Pray for God’s comfort for those who have lost loved ones in this crisis. This is a most difficult time for them – a time of heart-wrenching grief and suffering. We may not be able to hold them – but we can hold them up in prayer. There is no distance in prayer – an old saying, but true, known by all who have felt the power of prayer during crisis times. We will get through this.
It is crucial to have a wider vision for prayer, and not to be limited by one’s own circle of personal concerns. International needs, national needs, local needs – each can be compelling and momentous during times of intercessory prayer. It is too easy for Christ’s followers to see the flood of information in the media on the areas of crisis in the world right now and just give up, thinking that they can do nothing. So, whatever happened to the power of prayer? Elijah impacted an entire nation by his prayers, and he is held up as an example for us! (James 5:16-18). Prayer is a channel of God’s love.
God answers the cry of his people. He is able to turn situations around, for the good.
Regarding prayer, James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2b ESV). God wants to do so much more in this world – but he has actually been blocked at times because enough people are not opening up to him and inviting him into specific situations. Others are ignoring God, or actively working against Him. Prayer is powerful, though, because it brings change. The more people who are praying with a right heart, the more change God can bring.
Through intercessory prayer, God does miracles and turns back evil forces. God brings in what is good and enables us to overcome evil in this world. By asking much and asking often, you actually set the stage so that God can bring in fruitful answers for you, and for others.
Pray about the needs facing your immediate family – your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your grandchildren, and so on. You can add the needs in your extended family. Your loving prayers can bring God’s help into each situation, and bring the increase of God’s love into your family life. Praying for the needs of your family is a powerful dimension of prayer.
You can pray for the needs of all those you love. We are even instructed to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45). We are encouraged to ask, so that we may receive (Matt. 7:7). God has good plans, which will be fulfilled as people turn to him and draw close to him:
For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you shall call upon me, and you shall come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:11-13 MEV)
What are the local needs in your local community? You can have an impact by praying for those in need. Possible areas for prayer: local community leaders such as elected officials, teachers, doctors and nurses, business people, first responders, and others. Pray for local churches. Pray for those with addictions, family problems, or serious illnesses. Pray for those struggling to raise a family. Pray for the neighbors on your street. Pray for any needs you are aware of.
Restoration and Healing
The needs are great, and God’s people can be great instruments of restoration. You can pray in light of the steps of restoration in 2 Chronicles 7:14. This includes the call to: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray and seek God; and (3) turn from any wicked ways:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chron. 7:14 ESV).
God is calling us to humble ourselves, to pray and seek his face, and to turn from any wicked ways in our lives. This means turning from sin, and committing to what is good. When we do, God promises to forgive our sins, and “heal our land.” He brings restoration in people’s lives. Today, this healing from God is ignited by the advancement of Christ’s own kingdom in people’s lives, a reign of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).
Through the storms and tough times as well as the good times these times of personal prayer and reflection on God’s Word can be like an anchor in your relationship with the Lord. As you commit everything to God in prayer, the peace of God will overshadow you: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7 NASB).
M. A. Erickson
*Certain sections of this article are excerpts from Daily Exercises for Spiritual Renewal by M. A. Erickson (used by permission), available in print and Kindle, at Amazon.
Prayer of Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is dispair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
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